I’m just a little bit stubborn

about New Year’s resolutions. They’ve never worked in the past – instead, they’re just good ideas that I’ve either forgotten about a week later or felt guilt over for screwing up. Life is messy, as we all know, and mine seems to be a messier one than most. 2009 was mostly reactive, putting out fires that I didn’t start, playing catch-up, and adjusting to yet another new paradigm. A month without an oven between Thanksgiving and Christmas certainly didn’t help.

But, 2009 was also a year where I learned more than I thought I would. And I think these little lessons, tapping me on the shoulder or clunking me on the head, are doing more to inform my goals (NOT resolutions, on purpose) for 2010. So maybe you (especially the lurkers, Leah – I know you’re there!) can help to hold me accountable in 2010. I apparently learn about everything the hard way.

Here goes:

  • Be more mindful of where the money goes. I saved $2,509.67 over the course of 2009 by setting aside the cost of a salted caramel signature hot chocolate – plus tax! – each day. I still struggled with another $4 drink that shall remain nameless, but I’m getting there. The goal was to set that money aside and not touch it, which of course didn’t actually happen. But the little emergency fund that could saved my financial ass more than once this year, got me back into the habit of saving, made me realize I didn’t really miss that small amount of cash that I otherwise frittered away, and reminded me that I need to pay more attention to my family’s financial situation. I, who was once incredibly anal about balancing my checkbook, haven’t wanted to look at it since May of 2008. That act of sticking my head in the sand has kept me from realizing that being detail-oriented is actually a good thing. This overwhelming part of my personality is an asset, both when we have a bit of a cushion, and especially when we don’t. Big D and I have started having real, substantive discussions about our family budget, and are making changes that should help keep us in line and not so willing to spend cash at the drop of a hat.
  • You can’t forget yourself in the process of getting through the day. Because of Big D’s school schedule, it makes the most sense to have me manage miss poopypants at daycare. So that means running to get her there, running to work, running through the day, running to collect her, running to get home and feed her before she turns into Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, running to put her to bed, running to organize the house, etc. Weekends are catchup and prep time for the week, not much of a break. With this as my standard schedule, and the running back and forth to deal with my mother’s house for the first half of the year, no wonder I survived on caffeine and sugar. My yearly grope and feel was a wake up call that my frayed emotions weren’t able to ignore: 22 pounds and 14 points on my blood pressure in one year meant I was going to kill myself at this pace. As much as my brain told me to keep going to get everything done, I’ve had to retrain myself to recognize that it’s not possible, my kids aren’t going to be young forever, and if I don’t relax I *will* pop a gasket.
  • The internet is a blessing and a curse. Both Big D and I are guilty of burying our heads in our data plans, surfing facebook and ignoring each other and the kids. I’ve had some so-called friendships blow up in my face because of social networking. But we’ve also gotten to know wonderful people, renewed old friendships, and learned more about our world, our environment, and our interests. Moderation needs to be the key – both in what we say or don’t say, and in how much time we spend. Our interpersonal relationships are enhanced by the internet, but honest to goodness, flesh and blood people are at the core.
  • I am more than what I do for a living or whom I parent. As much as I love and need my job, and dote on my kids, I can’t forget who I am. Most of the time, that person is dormant – caring for young kids pretty much demands it – but glimpses of what I enjoy need to surface on occasion so I don’t lose my me-ness. If anyone has any ideas on how to actually make this happen, I am taking suggestions!

And one hard and fast goal – miss poopypants WILL be in her own room by the end of the month, come hell or high water. We’re both getting sick of being beaned with binks at 6:30 am.

sick as a dog…

… is my latest excuse. So is dealing with small children and a partner in graduate school. And a full time job, and a messy house, and two large loud dogs, and and and….

I will get better. Spilling my guts is cathartic, and Lord knows I could use some catharsis every once in a while.

In the meantime, here’s our family pileup for our holiday cards. How’d miss poopypants get up there?

collections…

little d turns over the box of every toy he gets/buys to see what other toys he can collect on the back. It drives me crazy because he hasn’t even played with the one he just received, and he’s already plotting to get the next one. Is he being greedy, or just expressing the human need to surround ourselves with stuff? I doubt he’ll become one of those hoarders with stacks of newspapers up to the ceiling, but he *does* also ‘collect’ random toys and cast off things from the playground at school. He’s horrified when I make him throw away the broken hair ties with balls on the end. Even if I wanted him to share hair cooties with his classmates, neither he nor miss poopypants have enough hair to pull back artfully into a ponytail.

One of my favorite bloggers posted today about her own collections, and given my ongoing dismay at little d’s hoarding future, I figured I’d try to come up with my own list and see if he gets it from me. Here goes:

1. Fiestaware. The old kind (though our everyday plates are the new Fiestaware). Yes, I know the difference. You can’t fool me. My first major collection, it conjures up memories of my sister trying to help me escape from my mother’s grasp on occasional Sunday mornings in high school. I may have been the only Thomas Jefferson Jaguar buying a platter at 8:30 in the morning.

2. Oaxacan wooden carvings. The colors go perfectly with my dishes; I first happened upon a blue alligator in a bead store in college and am still pissed that I can’t find it today (the alligator, not the bead store). This local store is too tempting for me to go in more than once a year.

3. Folk art. Usually to match the above color explosions of dishes and roosters. My current favorites are either a painting of a big old car from Cuba brought back by a friend, or my gourd/nativity scene. (sort of like this, but not nearly as cool. I may need to up my collection of gourd nativities now!)

4. Shoshona Snow Ceramics. See above for dish-matchy-matchy feelings. Plus I’m supporting a young and very talented artist in this country, not just other countries. Nobody buy the vase with the turquoise top, I may need that for a Christmas present this year.

5. Art that makes you scratch your head. Also known as oddities, politically motivated art, planner art, whathaveyou. We have these guys flanking a large portrait of my great great grandmother; a painting of Baltimore rowhouses done by a local artist/public health professor whose research tracked him to the woman who lived at the center of the row; a 4’x4′ painting of acrobats juggling bombs, grenades, and the world; we’re considering purchasing something by this local artist; and we both absolutely drool over this artist‘s work. Haven’t yet figured out what to hang in our bedroom, but we’re pretty much out of wall space otherwise. Sounds about right for a woman who lives with Big D, who is currently getting a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty as the grim reaper.

6. Quilting fabric. Though I haven’t really worked on any of my unfinished quilting projects in about three years, I can still fondle a fat quarter with the best of them.

7. Fiction. A recent organization of the books in our office shows that Big D has way too many books about the Nazis; I have way too many novels that I haven’t yet read but can’t seem to discard.

8. Globes. A small collection of three, but it’s bound to be growing soon. I also have a fabulous map of a portion of France that happened to be in my grandfather’s attic. Yes, I am a planner. I am a geek.

9. Mid-century costume jewelry, especially Lisner. Jewelry from my grandmother sparked this particular obsession. I was devastated when my house was burgled in the midst of moving after graduate school and I lost her autumn leaf bracelet.

Hmmm… yeah, he gets it from me.

paranoia and lilypads

I must have done something horrendously awful in a previous life on November 1st. The past three years, I’ve been paying for it.

This year, I was in the local children’s hospital emergency room with little d, who insisted he felt well enough to trick or treat to 6 of our neighbors’ houses. Yeah, not such a good idea. Turns out H1N1 Boy also had the accompanying pneumonia, and was on oxygen for almost 4 days. Laying around the house and lots of sleeping lasted for about another week. Thankfully my employer practices what the Man preaches, and I could work from home for up to two work weeks to minimize exposing my coworkers.

My paranoia-induced productivity while at home amazed even me. Because of an ill-timed online altercation of Big D’s, I used my ‘smoke’ breaks and lunch hours to bust my hump in our decidedly cluttered house. The carpet that smelled like an old lady in little d’s room was the first thing to go. You know he’s feeling better when he decides to use the new rugs as launching pads, lilypads, and swamps that will suck you in so you can’t step on the green ones, mommy.

We still need a few more; little d’s holding out for orange. But those $7 and $10 rugs may have been the best purchase ever. Until he comes crashing through the floor.

Speaking of purchases and purchasing power: guess how much money I have in my hot chocolate guilt fund! Guess. Seriously, guess!

OK, I’ll tell you. Drum roll, please…..

$1,278.30. And that’s with me needing to dip into it once or twice over the past year and still owing myself about $150. Not bad for not missing a hot chocolate a day!

it’s always something

It seems fitting, oddly enough, that something else has the potential to go wrong this week. It’s always something – and has been for the last several years. Just when one thing seems to be resolved, or cleaned up, or dealt with, here comes another thing to crack me over the head until I see stars.

I’ve had a steady stream of unsettling issues to deal with, and quite frankly, I’d like a moratorium. Not a long one, like ten years, or the rest of my life, but six months to a year of mundane existence would be welcome right about now. Of course, that’s not how it works.

So here I sit, on the eve of my birthday, knowing that we don’t have the time to actually celebrate, and I’m coming to terms with that. I’m an adult, I don’t need the confetti and the goodie bags and the Chuck E Cheese tokens. I’d much prefer to not have to deal with those at all, but little d and miss poopypants probably wouldn’t let me get away with that kind of a moratorium. But that’s not all. I sit here, on the eve of my birthday, fervently hoping for good news tomorrow morning. That the something that is wrong isn’t really too bad, or if it is, that’s it’s easily fixable.

There’s a lot they (whoever “they” are) don’t tell you about being a parent. Having your heart grow three sizes is just something you can’t describe, even when you’ve experienced it. Having a piece of you walk around outside your body, happy and joyful with scabbed knees and adult teeth half-grown-in, makes you feel both bulletproof and incredibly vulnerable. And having something potentially wrong, really wrong, with the scabby-kneed ninja who’s sleeping upstairs is quite possibly the most overwhelming, heartwrenching feeling of impotence that I could possibly imagine. I’m entirely too practical to not be able to fix something when it’s broken. And when it’s your kid’s heart that’s broken, you want to fix it. RIGHT NOW. And there’s no way I can do that without handing him over to people I don’t know and hoping they know what they’re doing.

Mommies are supposed to fix everything, to kiss every boo-boo and make it believable when they tell you everything is going to be ok. I can’t say that convincingly tonight. Maybe, hopefully, I’ll be able to say that tomorrow. That would be a great birthday present.

silent auction this week!

I just crafted this for a silent auction at our church – and it turned out well enough to share, I think. Feel free to come and bid!

Strong Back; Weak Mind

Although he’s not as young as he used to be, [Big D] is built for labor. He makes lifting 225 pounds over his head look effortless, and he’s been known to move many large, heavy pieces of furniture with ease. Since he grew up on a farm in North Carolina, [Big D] is also skilled in such areas as shoveling manure, throwing hay bales, and digging holes. He’s handy enough for basic or intermediate yard or house work.

But wait! There’s more. Not only is he skilled in manual labor, he’s great for entertaining, philosophizing, or heated political debate. [Big D] is a former conservative who “saw the light” and now considers himself politically progressive. However, he debates like Bill O’Reilly’s minions and can poke a hole in any argument. Working on his Master’s degree in Public Policy, he can discuss the price of tea in China or the rising natural gas prices in Turkmenistan.  [Big D] is particularly proud of his Arnold Schwartzenegger impression.

Up for auction are two hours of [Big D]’s back, [Big D]’s brain, or both. If you want to chat about Nazi Germany while getting your front door painted, [Big D]’s your man! Bid price is per hour; depending on your project, more hours are available if needed (or if you really like to talk).

two and a half weeks of chaos

I love back to school season – the air cool enough at night to close the windows and actually use the blankets, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new shoes and looseleaf paper. It’s even better when your kids are the ones going back to school, so it’s not you that has to get on the bus and look around with trepidation at who’s going to be nice enough to you to let you sit next to them. Your stomach still does the flip-flop, but this time, it’s only in sympathy.

This year, though, I am the only person in my house not going back to school. However, Big D didn’t get The News until the first week of August – as one does when one has applied for graduate school at the absolute last minute. The first day of smiles and relief and celebration was quickly replaced by the realization that 1) we have nowhere to put Miss Poopypants, 2) we have to fund a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for Big D’s grad school startup costs, 3) and the scheduling is horrific. I’m surprised my hair hasn’t fallen out yet, what with all the pulling and rending and gnashing currently happening.

Miraculously, 1) is now under control, and Miss P started on campus daycare last week. Other than the fact that she took a 14 hour nap on Sunday to catch up on her Very Busy and Important first week of daycare, she’s happy as a pig in mud. 2) is more or less worked out with the help of half.com, and 3) is becoming more livable. Big D’s Big Day is today, and the freshly sharpened pencil smell has gone to his head. The world’s largest backpack has successfully put the world’s largest smile on his face. The juggling continues until the end of next week, when Little D gets back into his rhythm of trepidation, but hopefully being a first grader will give him some street cred at the back of the bus.

Now I just have to figure out how to surreptitiously take a picture of Big D’s first day of school…